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December 21, 2015

What’s in a Holiday-Favourite

We sat down with Gregory Prest and Michelle Monteith, the leads in Soulpepper’s holiday classic Parfumerie, to tell us about their characters and why the show remains an audience-favourite year after year.


For the first time you’re playing Rosie & George – the shop clerks who anonymously fall in love via letters. Tell us about your characters, and their relationship in the show:

MM: I play Rosie Balaz who so much fun! She’s a firecracker! She speaks her mind and has a strong sense of self, which I love. She’s straight forward and in her skin. I love her. She’s also vulnerable in her own way. She’s smart and caring. Her relationship with George is complicated and rife with conflict because in many ways they are each other’s opposite. They constantly misunderstand each other.

GP: I play George who is described as a ‘fuddy-duddy.’ I like this description. I see him as a bit of an uptight, organized, romantic loser with a bit of a self-confidence issue. So of course Michelle’s character, Miss Rosanna Balaz, is his idea of a chaotic nightmare. She makes him see himself in a way that he doesn’t like. He wants to be a Don Juan, but Rosie knows him as anything but. They fight; they argue; they hate each other. But then…


What do you love about this show/story?

MM: I love the real characters that fill this play. No matter where you look onstage at any given time, there is so much going on. I was constantly admiring our director’s storytelling. How he juggled the focus of the story but also encouraged everyone to really exist in that world. Also, there is so much love in the play. I especially love the small moments of discovery that reveal the good in the world. I also love the moments of discovery that the audience experiences as the story unfolds. On our first preview (which was mine and Gregory’s first experience with an audience for the show), the love and support from the audience, the way they were experiencing the story unfold and the way that lifted us up was exhilarating!

GP: I love everything. The first time I saw it I laughed and cried. It’s very moving and very funny. The world of the play is so special. It’s a play about love and forgiveness. What’s better?


Why should families come down to experience this show and why do you think it has become a Soulpepper classic?

MM: I hope that audiences come down to experience the show because it is such a feel-good show. It’s about love and finding that one person who is made for us. I think it has become a Soulpepper classic because the story resonates with people. Whether it be George and Rosie’s story, to Mr. Hammerschmidt’s or Arpad’s or Mr Sipos’s story or to any of the characters. Surrounded by an extraordinary visual world with a wonderful script, there is something there for everyone. It has a beautiful blend of laughter and sadness and feel good-ness. It is such an honour to be in the show.

GP: Parfumerie is a beautiful show. I talked to a man who had come to see the show and said afterwards, “I could watch that play for hours and hours, over and over again.” It casts a spell.

Don’t miss the final performances of Parfumerie, on stage now until Dec. 27 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts at 27 Front St E as part of Soulpepper’s Family Festival.

Images: Parfumerie ensemble, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann. Michelle Monteith & Gregory Prest, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann. Gregory Prest & Michelle Monteith, photo: Nathan Kelly.